I have an obsession. I bet you have it, too.
My obsession reveals itself in coffee shops when I catch myself eavesdropping, striving to hear why Sam fired Kim. I don’t know Sam or Kim. Why am I at all interested?
It reveals itself at 2am, when I can’t close the book before I finish those last 20 pages. And it reveals itself in a binge-watched Netflix series. I know they write those cliff-hanger episodes to keep me glued. Why do I let it suck me in?
God hard-wired this strange obsession with story into us. The fate of the character. The twist in the plot. The last word of the conversation. Jesus understood the power. He spoke in parables. He rarely made the story plain. He often left the ending a little open, leaving His disciples to conjecture amongst themselves what His point could possibly be.
What Story Is Your Church Telling?
Most Americans think they understand the story of the Church. In one way or another, they have their experiences and stereotypes, their beliefs and hopes about what it is. Increasingly, young adults, in particular, are choosing not to engage it for themselves, assuming they get the story and that it’s not worth picking up. They think they know what you’re going to do next. They could probably predict your entire calendar of events. They think they know how you’ll react to their questions, and often decide to never ask them.
The best way to intrigue someone who thinks they know where a story is going? Give it a twist. Change the ending. Do the unexpected.
Jesus changed the narrative all the time. He flipped the story of a Jewish rabbi on its head. He introduced characters no one could have predicted and that many people weren’t sure they liked. He allowed the story to get messy. When He died on the cross, His closest followers felt the shocking realization that the story of power and rule they thought He was telling, in fact, had a very different ending.
And even then, it wasn’t over. He’s been writing new episodes through us ever since.
Would Your Church’s Story Draw in a Casual Browser?
Or is your story predictable? Run of the mill? Uncompelling?
I think this matters. The narrative of the Gospel is of scandalous love and reconciliation. It has shocked and offended all throughout history. Not with hype, or gimmicks, or manipulation, but instead with joy and surprise and forgiveness and celebration.
We have a responsibility to write our part of the story well. And here’s what makes me so hopeful:
God can turn stories that seem doomed, depressed, stuck and ugly, and create something so beautiful and moving that people return to experience it again and again. God can breathe new life into a church that has witnessed years of vitality turn into months of empty seats. He doesn’t look at a season poisoned by dissension or by the failures of a leader as the final chapter. He can light a fire in a church that has been paralyzed by fear of change or faded by lukewarm love for God. In fact, the worse the beginning, the greater the redemption.
Don’t despair. Dream. God’s vision for your story is bigger than buildings built, campuses launched, or committees formed.
What does the next episode look like for your church?
If you could use some help clarifying your vision, The Unstuck Group can help. Learn how our 4 Phase Planning Process helps churches get unstuck.